May 9, 2013, 3:58 PM

Gamecocks crow about the results from a new responsive mobile site

Garnet and Black gains big boosts in mobile conversion and sales via a responsive site.

Lead Photo

The e-retailer was concerned with smartphones of increasingly varying sizes, so it moved to responsive design.

Garnet and Black Traditions, an e-retailer of University of South Carolina Gamecocks merchandise, could be at the forefront of a trend: Merchants dropping dedicated mobile commerce web sites in favor of responsive web design sites.

An m-commerce site serves only smartphone shoppers. Responsive design uses one set of web content and one code base to create a single site that automatically optimizes on the fly to fit the width of the screen of the device making a page request. A responsive site typically serves shoppers on desktops, tablets and smartphones. Garnet and Black, however, redid its mobile site, m.GarnetAndBlackTraditions.com, using responsive techniques that it can later apply so that a single site will adjust to tablets and personal computers. The e-retailer was more concerned with smartphones of increasingly varying sizes, saving the tablet and desktop work for later. Its conventional e-commerce site, www.GarnetAndBlackTraditions.com, retains its previous design for now.

Garnet and Black’s decision to move to responsive design for the mobile site is paying off. The e-retailer launched its responsive site April 18. Prior to that date, the mobile conversion rate was 3.21% and mobile sales accounted for 7.51% of total web sales, the merchant reports. Today, the mobile conversion rate is 5.83% and mobile sales account for 18.2% of total web sales.

“Having a uniform look across all platforms so customers know where they can find things is important,” says Chris Boomhower, e-commerce director at Jewelry Warehouse, which operates Garnet and Black Traditions along with Jewelry Warehouse, Tiger Paw Traditions and Palmetto Traditions. “On many smartphone sites, the navigation is vastly different than on the desktop site. For some customers that is difficult to transition to. Having a responsive site allows a customer to feel comfortable across the board on any device and comfortable making a purchase.”

One of the major factors driving the Gamecocks merchant’s move to responsive design was the previous m-commerce site’s inability to respond with a different display when a smartphone shopper tilted her device from portrait mode to landscape mode. The m-commerce site also took more space than was desired to display product descriptions, requiring considerable scrolling by shoppers. And photo size was limited on the m-commerce site; the e-retailer wanted bigger pictures for smartphone shoppers.

The responsive site cured all these ills, displaying web content to fit on a smartphone in portrait or landscape mode and adjusting if a shopper tilts his phone, fitting most product descriptions to one screen, and allowing for larger imagery, Boomhower says.

E-commerce and m-commerce technology provider UniteU Technologies Inc., which built the previous m-commerce site, coded the foundation of the new responsive site using JavaScript and Cascading Style Sheets, a mark-up language used to define pages and denote where elements appear on a page. “UniteU built a template and we populated the template with our data,” explains Boomhower, whose interest in responsive design was piqued at a UniteU user conference, where it was a featured topic.

UniteU charges around $7,000 to build a mobile-optimized version of a desktop site. The vendor says it costs around $3,000 to transform that version of the site into a site for smartphones that uses responsive design techniques. A full-blown responsive site for desktops, tablets and smartphones costs around $50,000 to build, the vendor says.

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